To clarify the apparent confusion in the implementation of the various Social Amelioration Programs (SAP), various agencies issued Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2, Series of 2020 (dated 9 June 2020), or the Joint Implementing Guidelines for the Implementation of the Social Amelioration Program for the Second (2nd) Tranche.
1. SBWS IS TECHNICALLY NOT SAP
The SAP includes both the COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) and Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers Barangay Ko, Bahay Ko Disinfection/Sanitation Project (TUPAD #BKBK). Both programs of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are included in the Full List of SAP for COVID-19.
On the other hand, the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) is not included in the list of SAPs. In other words, while the SBWS and SAP are both emergency subsidies provided under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (R.A. 11469) to combat the effect of the lockdown brought about by COVID-19, these are technically separate. This is clear in JMC No. 2 when it provides that:
- 1. The Emergency Subsidy Program (ESP) is implemented through the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) of DSWD, DOLE, DA and DTI, as enumerated in Section 7 of JMC No. 01, series of 2020. CAMP and TUPAD #BKBK are included in that list of SAPs.
- 2. The SBWS is implemented through SSS-DOF-BIR JMC No. 01-2020. [See P5,000-P8,000 Wage Subsidy under the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Program]
The distinction is academic and moot, but it has caused confusion among beneficiaries. The numerous queries can be boiled down to this: “If I received SAP from our local government, am I disqualified from receiving the SBWS from SSS?” The confusion is compounded by the fact that in the SBWS application form, the only question pertaining to emergency subsidy is CAMP, giving rise to the impression that the beneficiary may still receive other SAP benefits. This has been clarified in JMC No. 2, as discussed below.
2. MAXIMUM AMOUNT OF SUBSIDY; NO DUPLICATION
JMC No. 2 explicitly provides that the emergency subsidy shall amount to a minimum of P5,000 to a maximum of P8,000 a month, for 2 months, based on the prevailing regional minimum wage rates. Both the SBWS and the SAP are emergency subsidies, which is the reason why JMC No. 2 also provides that there should be no duplication in the provision of assistance under the SAP and SBWS.
3. THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT IS COMPUTED ON A PER FAMILY BASIS
Some SAP benefits are given on a per household/family basis (e.g., DSWD), while others are given on a per individual basis (e.g., SSS and DOLE). JMC No. 2 clarifies that the computation of a “family cannot receive a total amount more than the regional maximum emergency subsidy in a month, and cannot exceed the total amount for two (2) months. Any amount received by an individual member of the family shall be included in the computation of the total amount.”
This rule applies even if the individual members of the family are physically separated from each other. JMC No. 2 provides that in “determining duplication, an individual member of a family who received an emergency subsidy shall be considered to be receiving for his/her family despite the fact that they are physically separated from each other.”
The implementation of this requirement, however, is easier said than done. For this requirement to work, the government must have a centralized database with information on all households and all members of each household, as well as the amount received by the household and each member thereof.
4. BENEFICIARIES MUST REFUND / RETURN ANY EXCESS AMOUNT
As noted above, the emergency subsidy (on a per family basis) shall amount to a minimum of P5,000 to a maximum of P8,000 a month, for 2 months, based on the prevailing regional minimum wage rates. This is the maximum amount that each qualified family may receive, including any amount received by all members of the family, even if physically separated.
JMC No. 2 provides that “any person or family who knowingly or unknowingly, or is found upon deduplication, to have received emergency subsidy from multiply sources (agencies), shall be required to refund to DSWD the excess subsidy he/she or the family is not entitled to receive.”
Note that the refund must be made to DSWD. Note also that a similar refund/return, with respect to SBWS, must be made to SSS [See Refund / Return of the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) Received by Workers]. Considering that JMC No. 2 was released much later than the SBWS return guidelines, it would be more efficient and less confusing if JMC No. 2 consolidated the refund rules for both SBWS and SAP.
5. REFUND / RETURN OF SBWS
The SBWS Program Task Force (SSS-DOF-BIR), in its Resolution No. 2, ordered the refund or return of SBWS benefits in the following instances:
- 1. Employers who (i) failed to maintain the employment status of all employee beneficiaries before the ECQ and other forms thereof and throughout the SBWS, or (ii) made misrepresentation in their application the fact of payment of wages or other material facts relevant to the eligibility of their employees, shall return to the government the amount of wage subsidy granted.
- 2. Employees who resigned during the period of ECQ and other forms thereof imposed in Luzon and other parts of the country shall return to the government the amount of wage granted.
Item 1(ii) pertains to “misrepresentation in their application” with respect to “material facts relevant to the eligibility”. Under the SBWS guidelines, an employee who received benefits under the CAMP is no longer eligible, which means that such employee (if SBWS benefit was nevertheless received) must return/refund the amount received. This is the subject of an Advisory from SSS. [See Guidelines on the Return of the Amount Received under the SBWS Program (Resolution No. 2)]
However, JMC No. 2 provides that CAMP beneficiaries in the first tranche “may be eligible under the SBWS of the SSS for the second tranche,” but “the wage subsidy for the second tranche shall be the net of any amount received from said programs.” In other words, it appears that there is no need to return/refund the SSS, provided that the excess amount is deducted from the benefits to be received under the second tranche. It would be extremely helpful if these policies have been consolidated or clarified in JMC No. 2.